Skip to main content

“Coming here to a small town has changed me. I think it has made me a better person”

Ely Echo - Staff Photo
Darius Mulbah, Tyler Slade, Quyavant Douglas and Rashad Jalloh talk before practice starts.

by Parker Loew

As the VCC men’s basketball season comes to a close, four freshmen reflected on their time in Ely and how their experience has been one-of-a-kind.

Darius Mulbah, Rashad Jalloh, Tyler Slade and Quyavant Douglas said while Ely is a unique experience for them, they have made the most of the opportunity to live and play basketball in the northwoods.

“My experience has been great,” said Mulbah. “I like town. They treat us like family out here.”

Mulbah said one of the main contributing factors that drew him to play for VCC was the new head coach, Dawson Dickson.

The sentiment on Dickson was shared among the rest of the group of freshmen.

“I like his style of play,” said Jalloh. “He has brought the team together, and our chemistry has gotten a lot better since the start of the season.”

The group of freshmen agreed the team chemistry was currently at an all-time high, even coming off two hard-fought losses to Rainy River and Minnesota North–Itasca.

One of the major contributing factors to improving chemistry on the hardcourt is how much time the team spends together off the court.

“I guess we just spent a lot of time with each other off the court,” said Douglas. “I think that helped us on the court.”

Some may say the extracurricular activities Ely offers can be seen as unconventional for a college basketball program, but the freshmen said they have had fun exploring the town and the surrounding area.

“We go to movie theaters, go on walks, go hiking on the trails,” said Jalloh. “Sometimes we go to the lake, all types of things.”

For Slade, his time in Ely has been a polar opposite experience from the landscape where he grew up in Maryland.

“It’s different from back home,” said Slade. “I used to live in the city. Coming here to a small town has really changed me. I think it has made me a better person.”

While there are significantly fewer people in Ely than in Maryland, Slade said the culture is also very different, and he has embraced the unique experience Ely has offered.

The freshmen said they have had many good memories this year, but their favorite was when Douglas hit the game-winning three-pointer versus Itasca.

“When Q hit the game-winning shot against Itasca, we went crazy. It was an amazing shot,” said Jalloh.

While VCC is a two-year program, many student-athletes come for just one year and then move onto bigger programs. Both the players and coaches understand this dynamic.

Last season, most of the players went on to other programs, and coach Dickson had to start from scratch.

“I had to replace the full roster this season,” said Dickson. “We started kind of real slow, but we have progressively come together.”

Throughout the season, the team has hit a few road bumps, such as losing a few guys to academic probation, but overall, Dickson said it was a resilient group of players.

When asked if they planned to stay another year, Mulbah, Jalloh and Douglas said it was a big decision for them and that it was still up in the air at this point in time.

Slade said he expects to stay another year to play basketball and go to school at VCC.

While their season so far has been a memorable one, the group of freshmen said they wanted to “go get the championship.”

“I don’t think Vermilion’s made the playoffs in the last four or five years, so we have a really good opportunity in front of us,” said Dickson.

The Ironhawks are at Central Lakes on Friday, Feb. 16, at Hibbing on Saturday, Feb. 17, and then have their last home game on Wednesday, Feb 21.

“I hope we can come out with a few wins and end the season the right way and head to the regionals,” said Dickson.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates